Howard Dean cites GOP opposition as reason to pass Senate health bill

Howard Dean, who last week claimed the Senate healthcare reform bill would do more harm than good, is warming to the measure that is expected to clear the upper chamber on Thursday.

During a Tuesday interview on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,” Dean said, “Honestly, to see the Republicans up there carrying on the way they are, I basically concluded that maybe we should pass this thing … If the Republicans hate it, there must be some good to it.”

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Dean’s softening position on the Senate bill started during an appearance on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, where he said he would not vote for the legislation “if this were the final product.”

On Tuesday, Dean reiterated his support for a public option, but acknowledged that the House-Senate conference bill is “unlikely” to include a government-run alternative.

He called the Senate plan “some kind of nonprofit hocus-pocus that’s run by the private sector, governed by the Office of Personnel Management.”

Still, he said the Senate bill has improved over the last week, stating that Democratic senators “tightened up cost control, money was added for community health centers … and increased doctor reimbursements to rural physicians. So they’ve done a number of things that will make this approach more likely to work.”

Dean added he would like to see a large expansion of Medicaid using federal funds “the way [Sen.] Ben Nelson [D-Neb.] applied to Nebraska. That should be applied to all 50 states.”

Nelson convinced Senate leaders to insert language in the bill to cover its proposed expansion of Medicaid. Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) and Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) have criticized the deal, estimated to cost $100 million over 10 years.

Since penning his Dec. 16 op-ed in The Washington Post that strongly criticized the Senate bill, Dean has backtracked somewhat.

Dean noted on Sunday that he has talked repeatedly over the past week with White House officials, including David Axelrod, senior adviser to President Barack Obama.

Dean said, “We’re all in the same family.”

Pressed on Dean’s criticisms on “Meet the Press,” Axelrod responded, “First of all, let me say I respect Howard Dean. I think he’s someone who cares passionately about this issue. He’s a medical doctor.”

Last week, Dean said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program that he would support Obama in 2012 but added, “Not vigorously.”

Dean subsequently told the Huffington Post that his “vigorously” comment was misinterpreted.

On Sunday, the former Democratic National Committee chairman made himself clear: “I’ve said I would vigorously support the president’s reelection in 2012.”


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